DNA Solves Decades Old Cold Case

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A molar extracted from a skull found nearly four decades ago provided a DNA profile leading to the identity of remains which had been known only as Christy Crystal Creek since discovered in 1985 by a bear hunter.

The skeletal remains were discovered in the remote Montana woods, in an area known to be a frequent disposal site for then serial killer Wayne Nance, known as the Missoula Mauler, who was suspected of killing multiple women during the 1980s. Nance was shot and killed in 1986, during a home invasion and was never formally charged or interrogated.

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An initial profile, which included techniques used for archaeology, examined the victim's teeth, and found particular dentistry techniques associated with that of those in Korean or Japan, this led investigators to create a profile which concluded the victim was of Asian descent.

In Spokane Washington, a family desperate for any information on their missing relative also heard of the Christy Crystal Creek findings. It was impossible she could be the one they so desperately hoped to find.

Thirty-eight years later. Time had destroyed all hope of finding any evidence or information which would give the family peace. Their loved one, Janet Lee Lucas, had vanished, disappeared, and was never seen again. Her five-year-old son, now 43, grew up never understanding why his mother would abandon him.

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Christy Crystal Creek became a cold case placed on the inactive list for nearly twenty years. Of the evidence secured upon discovery of Christy Crystal Creek, detectives knew she had been shot twice in the head. Her skeletal frame was scattered, and a large clump of dark brown hair had been found at the scene. No personal effects, clothing or other belongings were found. Her skull was discovered in a drainage pipe, visible, with no effort by the killer to bury or camouflage the remains. Partial decomposition, exposure to the elements and animals, provided detectives with a limited time frame.

They were able to gather key descriptions and from finding determined the victim was about 25 years old, possibly a waitress, right-handed, 110lbs and of Asian decent which for the thousands of loved ones missing relatives this would eliminate the possibility that the remains of their loved one was found.

The case was recently profiled on a national podcast which drew new interest. The advancement of DNA profiling has become an exact science since its first introduction in the early 1980s. For cold case investigators, the genetic profiling tool has provided the foundation to create a genealogy profiling leading to closure on previously unknown remains.

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"Recently, however, investigators turned to her teeth again, extracting a genetic profile from one of her molars and uploading it to a genealogy database. That led the investigators to a cousin who connected them with the woman's siblings," The New York Times reported.

The original report in 1989 had been nearly accurate except the newly identified victim, Janet Lee Lucas, was American.

On a cigarette run, in 1986, Ms. Lucas left the house and was never seen again. With a young son at home, her prolonged absence was not in character. Her brother, Jim Lucas, organized a small search party, tracking her down to a local bar and then the trail froze. She was never seen again.

"This is a huge peace that comes with finding out what happened," said Josh Cheney, her son. Now 43, he said he last saw his mother when he was 5 and had spent his life wondering if and why she had abandoned him. "Even though she's gone," he said, "at least I know," The New York Times reported.

The identification has led police to reclassify the case as a cold case homicide investigation with renewed effort to find the killer.

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